TAKE BACK THE UNIVERSE AND GIVE ME YESTERDAY
An ex-indie band going hi-fi is like a brunette going platinum—if you're gonna do it, for Christ's sake, go all the way and do it right. Putting producers Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, the Flaming Lips—but you knew that) and ex-Talking Head Jerry Harrison at the wheel is an excellent start—hi-fi, platinum, whatever your ambitions. And Creeper's fourth album (on as many labels) is an ambitious one, indeed; Marilyn's lips ain't got nothin' on this gloss. But after a few spins, the space-age textures and surround-sound ambience enhance—not obscure—the songs beneath. Swirling gems like "Sunfair" and "Naked Days" and the six-string crunch of "Hey Sister" prove that radio-friendly doesn't always mean rotten (though quips of insanity and high drama—"Check it out/I'm a freak with tripped-out behavior, yeah"—are past their expiration date). Don't hate them because they're beautiful. (Kristin Fiore)
HIT AFTER HIT
Joey might be dead, but they're never gonna kill off that buzz saw wall of guitar the Ramones used to re-define rock & roll's vocabulary; it just sounds too good. And the Briefs know it, pounding out 13 power-chord punk anthems here that are less buzz saw than battering ram but still just as punchy and unpretentious as anything that lapped at those Queens boys' toes a quarter-century ago. Like obvious old-time soulmates the Weirdos (and indeed, a host of old Masque blasters like the Controllers, the Skulls and the Dickies), the Briefs bounce stripped-down staccato riffing against teenage boredom and an appropriately cracked sense of humor, latching on to something at once familiar but distinctly their own. The single "Poor and Weird" (an instant hit if we ever heard one) finds singer Lance Romance explaining his lack of success with the ladies thusly: "I fell on my head when I just a little kid/Yeah, well, it's not that funny." "Knife," a sloppy sleeper of a rave-up buried in the middle of the album, recalls the endearing faux sappiness (and mellifluous vocal stylings) of the Toy Dolls—anyone remember Glenda and her test-tube baby?—while "Run the Other Way" rings as true now as anything that stomped out of CBGB's in 1976 or the Roxy in 1977. "Gimme gimme danger, gimme something I can talk about!" pleads poor, numb Lance. Twenty-five years ago, this would have exploded heads. Turn it up loud enough now, and it still might. It's what Joey would have wanted. (Chris Ziegler)
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